49ers

Rookie QB report card: Lance flashes; Jones aces Pats debut

49ers
Mac Jones, Trey Lance

After an offseason filled with gushing reports from training camp, the vaunted 2021 quarterback class finally got their feet officially wet Sunday when each made their respective NFL debuts.

Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones each were named Week 1 starters, while Trey Lance and Justin Fields saw limited action in certain situations.

All five quarterbacks found the end zone Sunday, but only Lance and the 49ers were able to walk away from Week 1 with the all-important W.

Still, all five quarterbacks showcased some good things Sunday. Here are our grades for each of the five first-round picks.

Justin Fields

Stats: Five snaps, 2-for-2 for 10 yards and one rush for 3 yards and a touchdown

Matt Nagy talked like the 2021 Chicago Bears were the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs, and that Fields would spend most of the season on the sidelines while he watched Andy Dalton conduct the offense. That plan went out the window four plays into the game Sunday night when Nagy sent Fields out with the Bears facing a second-and-10 from the Rams' 12-yard line. The play was a run-pass option, and Fields worked it to perfection, reading the defense and delivering a strike to Marquise Goodwin for 9 yards.

Then, he left the field.

Fields would get four more snaps including a 3-yard rushing touchdown, but that was it.

It's just one week, but it seems Nagy already has come to the realization that many of us reached while watching Fields at Ohio State. That he needs to play more, and the Bears are more formidable with him under center even in limited action.

 

It's unclear when or if the Bears will turn to Fields full time this season, but he certainly needs more than five snaps if the Bears plan to be competitive this season.

Grade: Incomplete

Trey Lance

Stats: Four snaps, 1-for-1 for 5 yards and a touchdown, and three rushes for 2 yards

Much like Fields, Lance saw the field sparingly in Week 1.

The 49ers rookie got four snaps (three rushes and one pass), throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield on his only attempt of the game.

Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive and efficient in the 49ers' season-opening win, but it's clear where the 49ers want this 2021 offense to get to eventually.

Coach Kyle Shanahan knows that Lance's skill set gives the 49ers a wrinkle Garoppolo can't provide and that eventually, that skill set can take his offense to the next level. It can get to a place no team running a variant of the Shanahan offense has gone yet.

But as for 2021, having Lance come in situationally while Garoppolo takes the bulk of the snaps seems to be laying the groundwork for the 49ers to be able to swap their quarterbacks in and out seamlessly and dictate matchups on their terms.

The 49ers already force teams to play their heaviest packages a lot by virtue of their high usage of the fullback and tight ends. If San Francisco can get to a place where it is comfortable rotating Garoppolo and Lance in and out seamlessly, then it can have an offense that can mutate to attack the weakness of any defense it faces.

That's the plan for the future.

As for Week 1, Lance was fine but you can't grade four snaps.

Grade: Incomplete

Zach Wilson

Stats: 20-for-37 (54.1 percent) for 258 yards, two touchdowns and one interception

Wilson got a rude welcome to the NFL as the Carolina Panthers had a mission to make his debut hell, and the New York Jets' turnstile offensive line did little to help their rookie out.

Wilson was pummeled by Brian Burns and crunched by Derrick Brown. Wilson was sacked six times and faced pressure on 55 percent of his dropbacks.

That's all very bad.

But Wilson used his athleticism to evade pressure and make throws down the field, but he completed only 31 percent of his throws when facing pressure, per PFF.

Wilson showed flashes Sunday in Carolina. The athleticism and the arm talent are impressive. But he can't do it all by himself. The Jets have to find ways to protect him and find a ground game or else it could be a long year for the No. 2 pick.

Grade: B-minus

Trevor Lawrence

Stats: 28-for-51 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions

For the first time in his life, Lawrence lost a regular-season game. Ever. Lawrence has all the talent in the world, but even stars struggle right out of the gate. The fact that he had to wade through the teal and black sewage that follows the Jaguars organization around doesn't help.

 

Like Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck before him, Lawrence will have ups and downs. He is going to have sensational throws and some mind-boggling turnovers that are the product of nothing more than his immense belief in his own abilities.

In Luck's NFL debut, he posted a PFF grade of 51.4 and had five turnover-worthy plays. On Sunday, Lawrence had a PFF grade of 57.7 and three turnover-worthy plays.

During his rookie season, Manning famously threw 28 interceptions. Manning, like Lawrence, didn't have a ton of talent around him to start his career.

It was clear Sunday. The Jags are undisciplined and unprepared. They'll need Lawrence to bail them out in order to win any games. He'll come through some times. But he will struggle before he becomes the star he is destined too.

Grade: B

RELATED: Schrock's observations: Lance, 49ers offer glimpse of future

Mac Jones

Stats: 29-for-39 for 281 yards and one touchdown

Jones didn't win in his NFL debut, but he showed the poise and precision that had many believing he was the most pro-ready quarterback in the class.

Jones was blitzed on nearly half his snaps but acquitted himself well throwing under pressure. Jones went 14-for-18 for 112 yards against the blitz and 14-for-19 for 102 yards when under pressure. He also went 8-for-12 for 89 yards on third down and a conversion rate of 66 percent. Of his 10 incompletions, only four were labeled as inaccurate passes. His 74 percent completion rate is the best mark ever for a rookie quarterback with at least 30 passing attempts in a game.

In short, Jones passed every test Sunday, and fumbles by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson kept him from leaving with a win.

Yes, Jones has room to improve. The Patriots can and will put more on his plate. They will also keep putting him in situations to succeed.

Welcome to the top of the class, Mr. Jones.

Grade: A

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